Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s arrival at a Samsung press conference in Barcelona drew heads — just none that were actually in the room.
In a widely-discussed photo, Zuckerberg strolled through the center of the room undetected while the entire audience had Samsung Gear VR headsets on.
For fans of virtual reality, it was a moment showing the power and allure of these virtual worlds. For its critics, the photo proved that virtual reality could be all the more isolating.
In an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner for the German newspaper “Die Welt am Sonntag”, Zuckerberg argued that the photo was the opposite of isolating.
Mathias Döpfner: A couple of days ago there was a striking picture of you in Barcelona: You were walking on a stage and no one recognised you because they were all wearing these VR glasses. You were smiling and seemed to enjoy it. Critics are now saying that this example shows that the virtual reality experience is isolating because it is no longer a collective experience. How do you react to these concerns?
Mark Zuckerberg: Nothing could be further from the truth. The exact opposite is the case. What was going inside the headsets was a video of children playing soccer in some faraway place. You could look around and you could see the kids playing soccer around you and it was a shared experience with everyone in that place that would have been impossible experience otherwise. It would have kind of been like going to a movie but a much more personal thing where you are all actually in it.
I think people tend to be worried about every new technology that comes along. Critics worry that if we spend time paying attention to that new kind of media or technology instead of talking to each other that that is somehow isolating. But humans are fundamentally social. So I think in reality, if a technology doesn’t actually help us socially understand each other better, it isn’t going to catch on and succeed.
You could probably go all the way back to the first books. I bet people said ‘why should you read when you could talk to other people?’ The point of reading is that you get to deeply immerse yourself in a person’s perspective. Right?
Same thing with newspapers or phones or TVs. Soon it will be VR, I bet.
As for the timeline on when we’ll all look like the audience at the Samsung event, Zuckerberg bet that it would take at least another 10 years for virtual reality to become mainstream. Read the full interview with his predictions on the future of virtual reality here.
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